‘Re-virginising’ in a tube: ‘Purity’ for sale at Pakistani pharmacies

Published: August 20, 2013
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While these topical ointments are being passed off as pleasure enhancing, it is pleasure rooted in patriarchy.

A few months ago, I noticed pharmacies in Karachi were carrying topical cures for lost virginity, “re-virginising” in a tube. These over-the-counter fixes were everywhere – counters in large supermarkets, small pharmacies acting as corner shops – hard to miss once you knew it was out there.

One of the names is hard to forget, ‘B-Virgin’, the package displaying a youthful girl smiling at white flowers. I admit there is the potential for dark humour given the name; instead it just makes me very sad. This is the message we are giving our girls, our women.

“Don’t be true to yourself; instead invest, medicate and fake it so your partner can be satisfied with how pure you are.”

And the purity in question is not an adjustable scale – it is a binary. If intact, you are pure. If not, then tough luck.

While none of these ointments or suppositories can achieve biological ‘re-virginising’ nor are they meant to, they are widely used and marketed as a solution to lost virginity.  Unfortunately  for the women of our culture – not all virgins will bleed. The artificial measures taken might also not produce the desired proof. Not even hymenoplasty.

I first read about Arab women flocking for hymenoplasty, re-connective surgery, two years ago. Around the same time a friend sent me an article on artificial hymens, ‘made in China’, at which point I wondered what measures our women resorted to, if any, since the ‘burden of proof’ lies on us women.

And now I know – in Pakistan we have the ‘B-virgin’ fix available in various packaging. I have heard of worse ‘solutions’: back alley cures and inventive douches but those aren’t available over the counter.

Just think about it, our combined outlook makes a woman feel compelled to alter her physicality to be accepted into a person’s life or family. I suppose this is a conversation most of us are not ready to have with our significant others. And many of our significant others have yet to understand the extremely personal nature of our decisions.

Placing such a price on an intact hymen is an archaic cultural hangover. But change in the next generation’s behaviour happens faster than cultural acceptability.

In other words, we have women out there who made a very personal decision but the taboo is public. The fear of being found out creates such strong cognitive dissonance they would rather fake it. Surely anyone can understand the harsh repercussions on a woman’s own psyche and the relationship they were compelled to start with a lie.

A colleague pointed out; perhaps it is good for a woman to have an ‘option’. Perhaps. I might not fully agree but I can imagine her personal decision coming back to haunt her and the repercussions being a tad more serious than an awkward morning after conversation.

The question still begs to be answered: how long can we hide behind the ‘option’? In the words of one friend,

“You can’t fix an ill with a farce.”

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Halima Mansoor

Halima Mansoor

The author is a senior subeditor at the Peshawar desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets as @Hmansoor (twitter.com/Hmansoor).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.